Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Thursday, 9 May 2013
The protagonist of my first novel is a Dutch girl in London. That POV was so easy to pull off, it’s almost cheating. But I swear that’s where the similarities end.
How come I ended up writing a book about someone who yanks her own teeth out with pliers?
When I presented my first outline for a novel – a tweenage runaway tale – to Fay Weldon and Matt Thorne, they said it was fine. “Go ahead, write it.”
Which wasn’t good enough for me. I didn’t want to be bread and butter, I wanted to be Marmite.
My central theme was pretty obvious: leaving home. So I asked myself: what is it really like to leave your roots behind? And the answer was: it’s like pulling out your own teeth.
Fay laughed until tears appeared when I told her I’d write a convincing story about that instead, and she gave me the nickname Talking Teeth.
For me, being creative is high-risk gambling. That’s why it’s so addictive.
Friday, 28 September 2012
Friday, 24 August 2012
“But where do I start looking?” asked a squeaky voice.
Baby Owl stopped and dropped mid-air. What was that?
Just before she hit the ground, she flapped her wings and started flying circles around the spot where she'd heard the voice. It wasn't me, she wondered, was it? Am I hearing voices?
She almost started to doubt herself, when she saw a field mouse scuttle away. “Where is it?” the mouse muttered.
I'm not alone! Baby Owl thought. She landed on a bush near the mouse, flattened her feathers and hooted: “You know you've really lost something when you don't even know where to start looking.”
She was trying to sound a lot smarter than she was - what she really meant to say was: We could be friends and search together!
“Oh hello there, wise young Owl,” squeaked the mouse. “You don't happen to know the way to kittencamp do you?”
“To kittencamp?” Baby Owl asked. “Do you need some help killing kittens?”
“Oh no! It's a meetup of geeks.”
If Owls could frown, Baby Owl certainly would be have been frowning now. For want of eyebrows, a face of wide eyed surprise sufficed. “Why is it called kittencamp?”
“Because everyone loves cats,” squeaked the mouse.
“It is my dream to make a puss purr.” The mouse made a purring sound. “That is the one thing I really want to achieve in my life.”
“Why don't you join me on my quest for wisdom?” said Baby Owl. “By the sounds of it, you could do with some.”
“In the words of the great Kanye West: I don’t take offense to anything anybody says about me at this point.”
“The great who?”
“School spirit motherfuckers!” The mouse jumped up on his hind legs and performed a funny dance. “Alpha, step. Omega, step. Kappa, step. Sigma, step. Gangstas walk, pimps gon' talk. Oooh hecky now that boy is raw!”
“Oh,” said Baby Owl, “Of course. Either way, I don't understand how I managed to lose my wisdom. It must have escaped through the first crack in the egg.”
“But why would you want to be wise,” asked the mouse, “when you can be cute like a kitten?”
Saturday, 11 August 2012
I was browsing their selection of cereals this morning, when a young lad walked past. Like a right Johnny Bravo, he twisted his neck, rewinded a couple of steps, and said something along the lines of "Whoa, look at you! How are you?"
Friday, 10 August 2012
"Got to respect a lady in heels and Lycra," he said.
I looked him up and down, from his lightweight helmet to his cleats.
"Guess what," I said, "I shave my legs too!"
Monday, 4 June 2012
Monday, 28 May 2012
Friday, 18 May 2012
Friday, 11 May 2012
The newspaper on the way home tells the story of a student who got drunk, fell off a roof and died. There is a picture of when she was alive: laughing intensely, carefree. It isn't hard to imagine her saying yes to a spontaneous but stupid idea such as climbing a roof when drunk. Would she have been able to laugh so happily in that picture, had she been the type of girl that doesn't take unnecessary risks?
Look up from the paper and see the skinny girl - no belly whatsoever- with on her coat a button that says "baby on board". Next to her, a heavy gentleman, frowning, holding his biro (cap on the rear) as if it's a quill, filling in the easy sudoku in this morning's Metro. Standing: a couple with suitcases. You can tell they're together by the silence between them. No strangers would ignore each other like this, not even in London.
|Hatter. © Chutney Bannister|
I ask myself this question at least twice a day - that's almost as often as I think about sex.
You'd think that by now I would have come up with an acceptable answer. Perhaps I am not a writer, maybe it makes me sad to lock free range stories up in confined sentences - even if it is for breeding purposes and might be the only way to save them from extinction. There's the fact that I can be plain lazy at times, and my creative applejuices are probably drained during office hours. Still, I don't feel any of those explanations do the situation justice.
There is an element of fear in my refusal to write. Looking at mistakes I have made before, I lose the courage to start again. "But every road to improvement is a paved with mistakes," I tell myself, "and if it were easy, everyone would do it."
Would they? Would others really dedicate time to writing stories, if they could? For some reason, I doubt it. Because the question they would ask themselves is the one I am struggling with myself, which happens to be the most frightening of them all:
Tuesday, 27 March 2012
Wednesday, 7 March 2012
Tuesday, 21 February 2012
When I carry the tea tray into the living room, I see that Santa has made himself comfortable right next to Gary, almost forcing him to finger the soft fur of his flank.
I smile and sit down on a cushion on the floor; Gary flicks ash from his ciggie on a saucer next to the sofa; Santa makes the tremendous effort of lifting one big ear.
“Been up to much lately?” I ask.
Still stroking the rabbit, Gary gives me a serious nod. “Believe it or not, mate, I've been thinking about your little predicament.”
“You know, your problem with the ladies. But not to worry, I've got just the girl for you. The name is Angel.”
“Gee, thanks, but you don't have to set me up with a date.”
“Don't tell me you want to save yourself for Mrs. Right,” he says. “There is no such thing as the right woman. Only women who are good enough. Plural.”
“That's lovely, but I think I'll pass on this one.”
“Seriously, Angel's perfect: blonde, big tits, tiny waist, firm grip, more flexible than a snake charmer's snake...”
“I assume you've been there? Why do you need to set her up with someone else? Is she getting too clingy?”
“Not Angie, man. This girl is a professional.”
Gary leans forward to kill his cigarette butt, making Santa sit upright. “A professional whatever you want her to be. You ask her on a date, she gives you a quote.” Smoke escapes from his lips as he speaks. You pay upfront, tell her your problem over dinner, she gives you another quote and does the job for you there and then if that's what you want.”
I'm awestruck. Is my best friend really telling me to lose my virginity to a prostitute? But all I can ask is: “Is this legal?”
“I doubt she pays income tax, but to be honest, I would find it a huge turn-off if I knew the tax man would get 40% of what I gave her, don't you think?”
“A rather harsh pimp-charge indeed.”
It's too much for Santa when Gary tries to retrieve something from his pocket. Dissatisfied, he stamps his foot and jumps off the sofa.
When Gary has found the scrap of paper he was digging for, he puts it face down on my table. “Best get it over with as soon as possible,” he says, “no man should have to wait twenty-three years. Especially not a good-looking lad like yourself.”
Sunday, 5 February 2012
That first morning, when I was getting dressed for my first day at the office, it didn’t occur to me that my mum would sooner or later tell them that I am far from married, nor did I think of the fact that most people only get near their five-a-day if you count forbidden fruits. In a nutshell, my life would be a whole lot easier if I would’ve left the ring at home that day. Once I’d started wearing it, though, I felt there was no way back.
My colleagues and I go for lunch together several times a week. They tell me all about their internet dates, boyfriends and heartache, and I know they’re hoping to hear my secret to a successful relationship. Little do they know the secret is not to have one.
I’ve decided a long time ago that if they ask about my wife, I’ll act surprised, and when they point at my ring, tell them it’s my dad’s. I’ll show them that mum's name is engraved on the inside, and I'll pretend to be well sentimental about the fact that my male role model disappeared when I was at such a tender age – even though in reality, I’m glad I didn’t turn out like him.
Ever since I came up with that escape, I’ve been looking forward to the day someone asks about my ring, yet so far, none of my colleagues has.
Elaine is the first to ask.
And even though it’s none of her business, I shake my head.
After everything that has happened between us, I wouldn’t dream of inviting her into my emotional sphere again. But all she had to do was be here. Look at me. And ask. If I would’ve had some time to think about the script of my own life, I would’ve given myself a line along the lines of “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re referring to. Has Christian Bale gotten back to you yet?”
But my head shook before I could think about it, and my mouth spoke before I could read the autocue.
“I’m not married,” I said, “and I haven’t changed. Neither have you, by the way. You look good.”
What am I doing? Am I chatting her up?
If I am, it seems to be working, as she smiles, takes my hand and scribbles something on the inside of my ringed finger. “Let’s go for a drink later this week” she said.
And instead of denying that I knew her, instead of saying that I never wanted to see her again, instead of transferring her case to one of my colleagues, I looked at my finger and asked: “Is that a nine or a four?”
Sunday, 22 January 2012
I'd expected her to be late – like your average parasite – but her timing was impeccable. The second surprise was that she'd actually followed my advice and tried to take more direct action. According to her form, she'd posted her CV on monsterboard, sent her portfolio to a casting agency and went into the Old Bond Street Prada store to apply for a role as store manager.
“Do you have any managerial experience?” I asked.
“That's what they wanted to know.” She shook her head. “But in my defence: the staff doesn't have to know that. I can pretend, you know, that's what I do.”
I gave her the old eyebrow, she copied the gesture innocently, and before I knew it, I was laughing. For customer care, laughing at a jobseeker is about as bad laughing at Madonna's manager is for a stage manager at the O2. I tried to stop, pinched my nose, coughed and excused myself, but when I looked up to her face again, she only needed to lift one eyebrow to make me crack again. I just couldn't help it. Two weeks worth of nerves forced their way out in the most inconvenient way possible. I was well aware that this was applying for a seat at the other side of my desk, but couldn't stop tee-hee-heeing. After a while, I didn't even remember what had set me off. People at the nearest free phones and vacancy machines were looking over their shoulders to see what was going on, and even the security guard noticed.
When I finally caught my breath, I managed to give the worst advice in Job Centre history: “Ever thought of stand-up comedy?”
But Elaine didn't seem to mind. She just smiled. “It's a shame the rest of the world doesn't share your sense of humour,” she said, “otherwise I certainly would.”
“I'm sorry,” I said, “that was very unprofessional. I don't know what's gotten into me.”
She looked at my hands, emphasising how I was fumbling the golden band around my ring finger again, and asked: “So you're married now?”
“I... er... this?”
“I didn't even know that was possible for people like you. Or have you chosen a side now?”